Wednesday, August 26, 2009

WWE Network: All wrestling, all the time?

The news that Vince McMahon, the evil genius behind the WWE was looking into starting a cable network sent wrestling fans a-twitter. It seems rumors of an all-wrestling channel seem to pop up every few years, but this time the story seems to have more to it.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the news in an August 24 story on the WWE’s trend towards more family-friendly content. Sources told New York Post that the WWE sees his future network as a basic cable channel, alongside such cable mainstays as ESPN and MTV. Programming would come from the company’s vast archive of wrestling programs, pay-per views, and films.
Getting there won’t be a walk in the park, however. The NFL has had its own cable network (The inconspicuously named NFL Network) since 2003, but has been fighting cable systems over carrying it ever since. For the WWE to get its wish to be on the basic tier, as opposed to being bundles with sports programming, it will probably have to make the kinds of concessions that the NFL Network has mostly refuses to do.
Though a new wrestling show or shows would be desirable for wrestling fans, the potential network would be most likely be reliant on the WWE’s vast archive of programming. Showing reruns of WWE programming is thornier than it sounds. Are there enough potential viewers willing to watch reruns of RAW and Smackdown? Would non-wrestling fans be drawn to twenty-year old footage of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair? Plus what to do with all of those shows which featured Chris Benoit?
Which gets to what might be the real reason behind this new push by the WWE for a cable network? Since 2002 the WWE has had its own film studio (WWE Studios), which features various WWE stars in dramatic roles. Films produced or co-produced by the company include The Scorpion King, The Marine, and See No Evil. There are further plans to produce films for theatrical, made-for-television, and direct-to-DVD releases. A cable network would provide a platform for bringing these properties to the public. And a network featuring films on a regular basis would fit into the basic cable tier than an all-wrestling network, which would probably wind up with cable systems’ sports packages.
For wrestling fans, a 24-hour WWE channel would seem to be a dream come true. The reality would probably mean more of Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia than CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy.

No comments: